Survival of Campylobacter jejuni and Escherichia coli in groundwater during prolonged starvation at low temperatures

USDA-ARS, AWMRU, Bowling Green, KY 42104, USA.
Journal of Applied Microbiology (Impact Factor: 2.48). 10/2007; 103(3):573-83. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.03285.x
Source: PubMed


To evaluate the survival of Campylobacter jejuni relative to that of Escherichia coli in groundwater microcosms varying in nutrient composition.
Studies were conducted in groundwater and deionized water incubated for up to 470 days at 4 degrees C. Samples were taken for culturable and total cell counts, nutrient and molecular analysis. Die-off in groundwater microcosms was between 2.5 and 13 times faster for C. jejuni than for E. coli. Campylobacter jejuni had the lowest decay rate and longest culturability in microcosms with higher dissolved organic carbon (4 mg l(-1)). Escherichia coli survival was the greatest when the total dissolved nitrogen (12.0 mg l(-1)) was high. The transition of C. jejuni to the coccoid stage was independent of culturability.
The differences in the duration of survival and response to water nutrient composition between the two organisms suggest that E. coli may be present in the waters much longer and respond to water composition much differently than C. jejuni.
The data from these studies would aid in the evaluation of the utility of E. coli as an indicator of C. jejuni. This study also provided new information about the effect of nutrient composition on C. jejuni viability.

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    • "The VBNC state is defined as a state of dormancy triggered by harsh environmental conditions [15], such as nutrient starvation [16], extreme temperatures [17], and sharp changes in pH or salinity [18]; osmotic stress [19], oxygen availability [20, 21], and damage to or lack of an essential cellular component including DNA; exposure to food preservatives [22] and heavy metals [23, 24]; exposure to white light [25]; activation of lysogenic phages or suicide genes such as sok/hak or autolysins [26]; and decontaminating processes such as pasteurization of milk [27] and chlorination of wastewater [28]. "
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    • "Since Xu et al. (38) reported their pioneering study concerning the existence of the viable but non-culturable (VBNC) state over 30 years ago, a large number of papers have been published by researchers worldwide, documenting the VBNC phenomenon in a wide variety of bacteria. Many pathogens, such as Escherichia coli, Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio vulnificus, Shigella sonnei, Shigella flexneri, Campylobacter jejuni, Legionella pneumophila (3, 5, 10, 26, 27, 32, 34, 36), and Salmonella Enteritidis (9) can enter the VBNC state after exposure to adverse environmental conditions such as high/low temperature, osmotic stress, oxidative stress, and nutritional starvation (2, 11, 23, 26, 37). The VBNC state is now generally accepted as a state in which a cell is metabolically active but is incapable of undergoing the cell division necessary to grow and to form a colony on growth media (21, 25, 29). "
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    • "The VBNC state can be triggered by a variety of environmental factors, including: nutrient deprivation (Cook and Bolster, 2007); changes in temperature (Besnard et al., 2002); oxygen levels (Kana et al., 2008); salinity (Asakura et al., 2008); and presence of heavy metals (Ghezzi and Steck, 1999). Cook and Bolster (2007) showed that E. coli and C. jejuni in groundwater transitioned into a VBNC state characterized by changes in morphology and a reduced rate of respiration in response to starvation and decreased temperature. Although pathogens cannot cause infection while in the VBNC state, there is evidence to suggest that their virulence is retained (Oliver, 2010), therefore they remain a public health risk. "
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